The Southsea herbalist who’s fizzing with excitement

Budd's Herbal Apothecary sounds like something from the pages of Charles Dickens. Inside the traditional Victorian shop in Albert Road, Southsea, there are row upon row of wooden cabinets filled with large glass jars holding herbs with weird and wonderful names such as slippery elm, colts foot and ashwaganda root. 

Old-fashioned brown bottles are filled with nettle, St John’s wort and avena sativa. There are teas, Himalayan salt, compounds, and soaps.

Wendy Budd with The Mighty Bucha, her own brand of herbal drink, kombucha

Wendy Budd with The Mighty Bucha, her own brand of herbal drink, kombucha

The smell of incense fills the air and the overwhelming feeling is one of calm, as owner Wendy Budd greets customers and advises on herbal remedies for ailments as diverse as pre-menstrual tension to IBS, anxiety and even eczema. 

Wendy, 39, is a medical herbalist. She treats people, rather than the conditions, by working holistically and giving dietary advice as well as herbal remedies.  

‘At my school reunion they all said to me “you were always weird!” laughs Wendy.  ‘I would make rose petal perfume in the garden as a little girl  and I was always aware of herbal medicine and its power. 

‘As a teenager I’d save all my pocket money to buy one essential oil a month and even as a 16-year-old I went to meditation group.’

Wendy Budd with her son, Rowan, 17

Wendy Budd with her son, Rowan, 17

It was always Wendy’s dream to open an apothecary but the business was only made possible because of a legacy from her mother, Linda Kail, who died of liver failure just over seven years ago.

Wendy grew up in the shadow of her mother’s alcoholism and would lose herself in creating potions and perfumes from plants and flowers. 

And she thinks, in part, it was seeing the toll that alcohol took on her mother’s well-being that drove her to embrace herbal medicine. 

She says: ‘My dad brought me up from about the age of four. Although I would see my mum at weekends, my time with her was spent in the pub eating crisps and drinking coke. In my teenage years it was fun because she would let us drink alcohol. But I started to realise it wasn’t normal. 

‘She went to rehab and had periods off drink and I’d have my mum back. But it never lasted. 

‘My mum was the biggest lesson. I could easily have gone down the same path, I was definitely hedonistic. But seeing her demise and how ill she was stopped that. It was a slow and painful death. She had liver failure and her legs blew up like balloons. Even her toes had rolls of fat. 

‘People say the liver is strong and can regenerate itself but that’s only up to a point. Once it’s past that point there’s no going back.’ 

It was an inheritance from her mother that enabled Wendy to open the apothecary. In a way, it is her legacy. 

The business is flourishing, riding the the crest of the wave in Southsea with vegan cafes and healthfood shops dedicated to healthy living.

But it took a long time to get where she is. Wendy fell pregnant in the first year of a herbal medicine degree in London. She took two years out to spend with Rowan, now 17, before taking a leap of faith and going to the University of Preston.

Of that time, she says: ‘I knew I had to finish my degree. It was hell in Preston, it was really tough and rained constantly. It was grey and I didn’t know anyone. It was a very lonely time but it was worth it.’

Back in Portsmouth she worked in pubs before consulting in a local chemist as a herbalist, advising on weight loss, smoking and diabetes.

And even when she opened the shop times were tough. Often Wendy didn't have gas or electricity at home until she made enough in the shop to charge the meter key.

Rowan, now an A-level student, works part-time at the apothecary and wholeheartedly believes in the power of herbal medicine. He has never had to have antibiotics.

He says: ‘When I was little my mum made me a compound formula called Deep Green which got rid of my growing pains when my doctor couldn’t help. I’m really proud of mum and what she has achieved.’

With the apothecary now thriving Wendy has launched her own blend of the ancient Japanese herbal drink kombucha, The Mighty Bucha. 

The sweet fermented black and green tea concoction has been drunk for its health benefits – including improved digestion and energy levels – for 2,000 years.

Wendy adds: ‘When I first got the shop it was in such a state but I could envision all the herbs in jars, how it would look, but the reality is even better. We’ve been going from strength to strength ever since.’

Go to buddsherbalmedicine.co.uk.

What is kombucha and what does it do? 

Kombucha is sweetened green or black tea fermented with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, known as a scoby.

During the fermentation process the yeast in the scoby breaks down the sugar in the tea and releases probiotic (good) bacteria. It becomes carbonated after fermentation.

Records of kombucha go back 2,000 years ago. 

It is drunk around the world because it is believed to be good for digestion and balancing internal bacteria and is said to boost the immune system, ease constipation and diarrhoea, reduce acid reflux, IBS and heartburn. 

Kombucha is promoted as an alternative to high street energy drinks and used by athletes. It contains B12 vitamin, pro-biotics, anti-oxidants and is believed to increase vitality. 

But there has never been a major study on its effect on humans, and pregnant women should not drink it. It can also cause side effects. 

The Mighty Bucha comes in two flavours – ginko, ginseng and sarsaparillo, and green coffee and green tea.  It is priced at £2.79 for 250ml and £7.99 for one litre. Pick up a bottle from Budd's Herbal Apothecary, Wild Thyme and Hunter Gatherer.